Real estate: Hack your home search with these Centris features

Here are four ways to find more of what you’re looking for in your online property search.

Working with a realtor is the best way to ensure you learn about new listings as soon as they hit the market — and offers even more ways to search for particular types of properties — but I’ve always liked to do my own searching as well.

Realtors will create a narrow search based on the specific criteria you identify, but I like to comparison shop. I often find that the data in the listing doesn’t tell the full story of a property. For example, some three-bedroom homes have a fourth room in the basement that could be easily converted to another bedroom — yet these won’t appear in my search listings if I’ve said I only want to buy a four-bedroom property.

If you’re having trouble finding a home in your price range, looking in adjacent neighbourhoods is also an option you really need to do with a manual search using the map view on Centris.

If you’re searching on your computer, you can draw a squiggly circle to define your search, rather than seeing everything from a neighbourhood. This is useful if you’re interested in some parts of a municipality but not others, or if your search radius depends more on proximity to work, school or other important places than postal code.

Here are four more ways you can hack your home search:

Find a walkable neighbourhood

Living in a place where you can easily walk over to a coffee shop, grocery store or other services is not only a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, but also to improve your overall health.

Researchers have found that adults who live in walkable communities are slimmer than those who live in pedestrian-unfriendly areas, and have lower risk of diseases like diabetes. Walkable places also reduce feelings of isolation for those who live alone, as they are more likely to run into friends and neighbours if they live in a place where people regularly walk for pleasure or spend time at local haunts.

Centris offers two tools to find properties in walkable areas:

The first is the “lifestyle” search filter, where you can select “pedestrian-friendly” or “transit-friendly” as a must-have, or toggle options to find homes near the services that matter to you, such as grocery stores, schools, daycares, shopping or restaurants.

Every listing also includes a little blue icon with a WalkScore ( rating. Click on it to find detailed information on nearby transit stops and services, bike infrastructure and how long it takes to get to the places that matter to you by car, bus, bike or on foot.

Find foreclosures

This one’s a new feature launched just this month. With prices climbing in Montreal, investors and buyers on a budget can use this feature to try to find properties selling below market value to fix and flip or rent out. A note of caution: While these deals may seem sweet, there are fewer protections for the buyer when going this route, and many of these properties are in poor repair. It’s a good idea to work with an experienced realtor, and set aside a fat savings cushion in case the home has more maintenance issues than you realized.

See only newer (or vintage!) homes

If you’re hoping to buy a property that has a modern aesthetic, or really don’t want the headache and expense of having to renovate a property, you may want to limit your search to only newer homes. On the other hand, if you love the look and romance of a century home, you’ll want to toggle the option to see only historic homes on Centris. You’ll find both these options within the “building features” section of the search filters.

Get price and sales data for your specific area

If you’ve been out of the market for a while, you may be experiencing some sticker shock when you see what homes are listed for these days. To get a sense of what a “good” price is for homes in your neighbourhood at current market rates, it can be helpful to look at the median price for the area (think of it as the halfway point: half the homes sold for less and half sold for more).

The Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers releases regular property market updates for Montreal, but when you break it down into local markets you can see that prices have climbed much more quickly in some areas than others.

You can find stats by region (South Shore, West Island, or the Island of Montreal) or municipality (Beaconsfield, Hampstead, Lachine or Westmount, for example) on Centris in the Tools menu.

There, you’ll find a summary of what’s happening in each local market, including the number of currently active listings, median price and average number of days to sell, as well as how those numbers are trending.

This is useful both if you’re thinking of selling your home (you can get an idea of how hot your local market is, and how much prices have gone up or down in the past year.

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